To Lead, First You Must Follow
TD uses Robert Greenleaf's essay, The Servant as Leader‚ as a blueprint for our behavior. Greenleaf was inspired by Herman Hesse's novel, Journey to the East.
In Hesse’s story, there is a band of men on a mythical journey who are served by a servant named Leo, who performs menial chores but who inspires them with his uplifting and infectious spirit. Leo leaves the group and everything falls apart. The men disband. The journey is abandoned. Not until later does the narrator, a member of the original band of men, discover Leo as the noble, inspiring leader of the order who had sponsored his original journey.
In essence, this philosophy suggests that every person can become a leader by first serving and then, through conscious choice‚ leading.
Every TD employee (or TDPartner) completes Basic Servant Leadership training. Those that aspire to lead will spend many more hours in the classroom and get regular feedback on their performance. Our commitment to this philosophy has created an environment where partners trust leadership to listen to their thoughts and ideas. And, in turn, leadership has learned to trust the judgment of partners.
A brief account of Greenleaf’s philosophy teaches us that:
- People can and should work together to grow a company. If an organization is to live up to its basic values and vision‚ a key ingredient will be leadership from all of us.
- Simply and plainly defined‚ leaders are people who have followers. They have earned recognition and respect.
- Leaders are first a servant of those they lead. They are a teacher‚ a source of information and knowledge‚ and a standard setter more than a giver of directions or a disciplinarian.
- Leaders see things through the eyes of their followers. They put themselves in others’ shoes and help them make their dreams come true.
There are a lot more great ideas that make up the Servant Leadership philosophy. Find them here.
At TD, Servant Leadership is a way of life that deeply enhances our culture and our business. It’s what makes us such a great place to work.
Here are the rest of Robert Greenleaf’s thoughts.
- Leaders do not say‚ “Get going.” Instead‚ they say‚ “Let’s go!” and lead the way. They do not walk behind with a whip, they are out in front with a banner.
- Leaders assume that their followers are working with them. They consider others to be their partners in the work and see to it that they share in the rewards, and they glorify the team spirit.
- Leaders are people builders. They help people to grow because the leader realizes that the more people grow‚ the stronger the organization will be.
- Leaders do not hold people down – they lift them up. They reach out their hand to help their followers scale the peaks.
- Leaders have faith in people. They believe in them. They have found that others will rise to high expectations.
- Leaders use their heart as well as their head. After they have looked at the facts with their head‚ they let their heart take a look too.
- Leaders keep their eyes on high goals. They are self-starters. They create plans and set them in motion. They are people of thought and action – both dreamers and doers.
- Leaders are faced with many hard decisions‚ including balancing fairness to an individual with fairness to the group. This sometimes requires "weeding out" those in the group who‚ over a period of time‚ do not measure up to the group needs of dependability‚ productivity and safety.
- Leaders have a sense of humor. They are not stuffed shirts. They can laugh at themselves. They have a humble spirit.
- Leaders can be led. They are not interested in having their own way‚ but in finding the best way. They have an open mind.
In addition to reading The Servant as Leader, we encourage you to learn from our TD Training Partners from the links below. You’ll see how this leadership style turns people and organizations into successful forces.